Shaun Donovan

13. How will you ensure that arts education leadership and instruction better reflects the population of 1.1 million public school students? What will you do to ensure that arts education reflects the cultures, values, and learning abilities of students engaged in it?

I believe that it is essential that the content discussed in our classrooms and the people leading those discussions mirror the diversity of our student body, as outlined in my Education Platform.

We know that having educators who reflect our students makes a difference; research shows that having a Black teacher by third grade increases a Black student’s likelihood to graduate high school by 7% and to enroll in college by 13%; with two Black teachers, that shoots up to 32%. Yet in New York City, fewer than 44% of our teachers and 47% of our school leaders are people of color compared to 85% of our students. This reality is most stark in communities that the city has underinvested in for too long—in the Bronx for instance, 62% of students are Latinx but only 27% of educators are. We must aim to increase the number of educators and school leaders who identify as people of color to at least 65% of all teachers and 70% of all school leaders over the next ten years, by investing in hiring, preparing and retaining diverse educators, building on the success of programs like NYC Men Teach, to develop additional pipelines and ensure that our educators reflect the diversity of the young people they serve as well as the languages they speak; and ensuring a systemwide focus on and transparency around educator diversity. This is important for our students, but also for economic empowerment in our communities; educator jobs are strong pathways to the middle class.

In terms of preparation, we should work with high schools and CUNY to create early exposure programs and scaffolded pathways to teaching for high school and college students, particularly those interested in working in their own communities; and to build more pathways for diverse educators, including pathways for other educators who are more likely to be of color to become classroom teachers, like paraprofessionals, early childhood educators, after school program employees, and staff in community-based organizations. Critically, both of these pipelines are more likely to include many educators who are bilingual and have special education experience, which would help develop a stronger pipeline of bilingual educators and bilingual special education teachers for our students. We could learn from the High School to Teacher program in Boston Public Schools and the Scaling Education Pathways in Illinois program as models for building strong pipelines of young people already in the city’s schools to become the future educators of color.

But preparation is just the start; schools must be supportive environments for all educators, especially educators of color, that lead to long-term retention, promotion, and diversity at all levels of instruction and administration. Data show that across the city, Latinx teachers have spent an average of 1.2 years less in their current school than White teachers—7.3 years for Latinx teachers vs. 8.5 years on average for White teachers. We must establish systems to retain, support, and elevate diverse educators in schools, including pathways to school leadership; and value the assets in our communities, including community-based leaders, educators of color, and local civil rights leaders, to design high-quality training programs for educators, such as anti-bias training, as well as curricula that increase the cultural responsiveness of education.

Finally, we must build on the work the City Council has done to make data available on teacher diversity, to facilitate focus and transparency. We must hold ourselves accountable for progress through more accessible, actionable data on educator diversity at every level, including data on how educators of color experience the workplace. We should make public longitudinal data on demographics and rates of turnover at the school, district, and borough level.

Reimagining means not just reverting to our pre-COVID normal, but creating schools that center the needs and experiences of students historically marginalized and underserved and foster holistic skills and development for all students. We must work with educators, families, experts in the field of equity and the science of learning, and community-based organizations to lead with a vision for schools that cultivates students’ multiple identities, fosters physical and mental wellness, supports social and emotional development, and develops their cognitive and academic skills. This framework will ensure that students’ identities are supported through culturally responsive practices, that social and emotional development is integrated into every facet of the school environment and instruction, and that a continuum of mental health care for students inside and outside of schools is well articulated. The framework will help all stakeholders understand a complete and integrated vision for school culture, climate, and instruction, and end the confusion over multiple guides, frameworks, and approaches or competing priorities imposed upon school leaders and educators. It will be supported with guidance, protocols, and ongoing professional development so that all school leaders, educators, and staff are equipped to implement it.

In order for this new vision for schools to be successful, we must first dismantle practices that focus on policing and disciplining students and make schools unsafe for many students of color—contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline. We must remove police from schools, starting with schools that employ multiple School Resource Officers (SROs), following the example of cities like Minneapolis, Oakland, Denver, and Portland. Some of the savings should be reinvested in Positivity, Prevention, Relationships, and Response (PPARR) Coordinators, trained in child development, de-escalation, and understanding how trauma and life experiences impact behavior, to create a positive learning environment. Current SROs will be supported in transitioning to these new roles if they are interested and ready to participate in the necessary training, or in being absorbed into the New York Police Department if they prefer to remain in law enforcement.

Removing police officers from schools is just a start; we must remove all vestiges of prison culture: eliminating metal detectors, on-campus arrests and handcuffing (except in the extremely limited circumstances where student and educator safety is actually and immediately in danger), and incident reporting for routine student behavior that leads to police intervention and police records. These practices create a hostile climate instead of a supportive learning environment, and lead to police records that launch students—especially students of color—into the school-to-prison pipeline.

Finally, we must tackle unfair disciplinary practices that disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities—and support educators to make these critical shifts. Although suspensions have decreased in the past couple of years, the overall number of suspended students remains far too high, with disproportionate numbers of students of color and students with disabilities receiving punishments that exclude them from the classroom. Educators must receive robust training on alternatives to traditional disciplinary actions like suspension that deprive children of opportunities to learn.

Shaun Donovan

12. How can the city play a more active role in reviving jobs in the creative industry and broadening access to the arts in local communities?

Where to begin! My recently released Arts & Culture Platform includes nearly 70 individual policy recommendations, many of which are geared toward not just supporting the arts sector as it recovers from this crisis, but actually addressing longstanding issues that affected the industry prior to the pandemic. At its heart is the acknowledgement that our city is what it is because of the artists who make it a place people want to visit and live in, who strengthen communities, who inspire and motivate us in times of struggle, and who unite us in moments of triumph. And all of this happens often despite the city’s actions, not because of them. At best the city has taken its artists for granted, and at worst, as with our current administration, the city’s views of the arts have bordered on antagonistic. We need to take real action to make it easier for everyone who contributes to the arts, including artists, administrators, and educators, to live, work, and get paid what they deserve in New York City.

As we come out of this pandemic, we will work with experts and arts leaders to reopen arts venues safely and bring audiences back in a way that is clear, enforceable, and takes into account the needs and perspectives of local businesses. Arts & Culture will feature prominently in campaigns that the city will design in partnership with NYC & Company, geared toward getting New Yorkers back to their local businesses and arts venues, and then attracting visitors from across the region, country, and globe. I will set an example, as a candidate and as mayor, by frequently attending arts events across disciplines in all five boroughs.

The city itself will also create more opportunities for artists by partnering with city artists to communicate vital information across our pandemic recovery. And, I will launch a program to utilize empty space for Arts & Culture initiatives to expand work opportunities for artists and access to the arts for communities.

In the longer term, my administration will make getting help and funding from the City as an artist or arts organization of any size as easy and straightforward as possible. And, in an effort to both support arts organizations in all five boroughs and encourage New Yorkers and tourists to experience the great art that’s available in all corners of our city, we will leverage digital tools to create a robust network of organizations and artistic events, promote these, curate specific experiences, and connect them to local businesses through discounts, bundle offers, and other promotional incentives to ensure that the benefits are felt by the entire community.

But economic opportunity is only one of the ways that artists in our city need support. Finding affordable can be a significant challenge for many in our city, including our artists, and I am committed to making housing accessible in all neighborhoods for all New Yorkers. We will look to include studio and rehearsal space in new housing developments and integrate these into existing housing, libraries, and other community buildings to make art spaces more available to artists and members of the neighboring communities. And we will focus on emphasizing diversity of discipline across these spaces so artists can have much easier access to any particular equipment they need to conduct their work and succeed.

Through more flexible zoning, we provide artists with more opportunities to work within their same neighborhoods, reducing the cost and inconvenience associated with committing. We will work with organizations like W.A.G.E. to set standards for compensation and ensure that the City is paying artists fairly—with the expectation that organizations expecting to receive public funds follow similar standards.

Recognizing that often getting paid at all can be a challenge for artists working with the city, we will improve and add accountability to the inefficient contracting and capital grants process, which should also save the city money that could be put toward arts programs. And, recognizing that artists may still fall on hard times now and then, I will use the knowledge of and relationships in the federal government that only I have in this race to ensure that our safety net is strong and that federal investments in programs like unemployment insurance and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) reach our artists and arts organizations.

And this is just a few of our ideas!

Shaun Donovan

11. How could the city ensure that all of our public school students receive instruction from qualified instructors?

As we move away from the pandemic, emergency measures like the reassignment of arts teachers can be reversed. Before the pandemic, data shows that the city was making modest progress every year in increasing the number of certified full-time arts teachers across the system (2856 in 2019-20 up from 2681 in 2015-16). Qualified arts teachers in New York State include elementary school teachers who are certified, but not working in the arts full-time, as well as teaching artists who are arts professionals teaching part-time in our schools. I expect that as principals revitalize their arts programs, middle and high schools in particular will choose to add full-time certified arts teachers. I will also encourage initiatives like a pilot in District 31 that supported elementary school teachers to add supplementary arts certification.

Shaun Donovan

10. Will you commit to requesting and participating in a hearing to understand why these learning requirements are not being met?


Shaun Donovan

9. With hundreds of schools out of compliance with NYS Education Department instructional requirements, will you publicly call on the NYC DOE to properly enforce and implement city and state arts learning mandates?

I fully support the New York State learning standards in the arts, and will work to continue the progress toward meeting them that was interrupted by the pandemic. Specifically:

  • Every elementary school should provide arts instruction through classroom teachers, school-based arts teachers, and cultural arts organizations working in schools.
  • Elementary schools should integrate arts education into student curricula and school-wide learning goals.
  • In middle schools, my administration will ensure that every student who wants to has the opportunity to learn and master a musical instrument.
  • I will also address the long-standing problems around meeting middle school standards mentioned in this question.
  • I have a plan to expand the existing, high-caliber Career and Technical Education and special arts-focused high schools to provide college and career pathways for the arts and arts-related industries that make New York City the arts capital of the nation.
  • Finally, I will ensure that all New York City public schools provide an opportunity for all high school students to watch a live performance at least once before they graduate, and will work with schools and local organizations to provide such opportunities

Shaun Donovan

8. Would you support the restoration of per-capita dedicated funding for arts education in all city schools? Why or why not?

I support more funding for all public schools to meet the full range of learning and socio-emotional growth their students need, after the crisis of the pandemic led to interrupted learning across the board, and especially to deep cuts to arts education. My administration will advocate for the arts as an important part of each school’s recovery plan. I think the NY State learning standards for the arts, the guidance and about high quality arts education from my education team, and continued reporting on arts spending and standards delivery will together create the right incentives for principals as they shape their school budgets. Arts education is not a one-size-fits-all proposition; funding allocations should answer the needs of the students, with evidence of impact on students’ academic and social-emotional progress.

Shaun Donovan

7. What would you do to ensure that every school in the city has the resources to provide every student with a quality education that includes the arts?

I will ensure that new and reallocated State and City funding underwrite a new generation of rich and sustained arts education for every public school student in New York City, beginning in Pre-Kindergarten. I am encouraged by the improving fiscal outlook for our schools based on Federal and State recent budget actions and proposals so I expect schools will have the opportunity to strengthen their arts offerings, and most will be eager to do so. I will also work collaboratively with the city’s many outstanding cultural organizations to coordinate private fundraising for arts education that allows them adequate resources for the critical work they do on behalf of our students without crowding out funding they need for their ongoing programming.

Shaun Donovan

6. Studies show that arts and cultural organizations led by people of color are often underfunded, resulting in limited capacity to provide critical support to young people and communities around NYC. What will you do to provide more leadership around an equitable distribution of resources to ensure their sustainability and growth?

Since the very launch of my campaign, we have been focused above all else on creating a vision for an equitable, fair, and inclusive New York City, since the future of our city depends not only on our ability to bring back what we had before, but to make something better for everyone. That is why one of the first policies I announced was the naming of our city’s first Chief Equity Officer, responsible for setting and tracking ambitious equity goals, and coordinating across city agencies and departments to ensure we meet them. I’ve launched plans to tackle gaps in opportunity, like my innovative Equity Bonds proposal, and I have released an entire platform focused specifically on Racial Equity.

As with all of my other platforms, we viewed our plans for supporting the Arts & Culture sector through a lens of equity, identifying opportunities within all of our ideas to support artists and communities that have historically received the least investment.

In that spirit, as we develop a system to utilize empty spaces across all five boroughs for Arts & Culture initiatives, we will prioritize providing space to artists and arts organizations that may not have those resources as readability available. As we launch our program to connect every single high school student with at least one paid job, internship, or apprenticeship opportunity in fields including the arts, we will focus on distributing these opportunities in a way that is representative of our student body, and building a more diverse pipeline of arts professionals. We will provide specific supports to arts organizations that qualify as Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) and make it easier for them to access those supports.

These are just a few of the many ways that my Arts & Culture plan aims to create a more diverse and equitable arts sector in our city.

Shaun Donovan

5. As students, principals, teachers, and school partners work to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on academic achievement, what role do you see the arts playing? What strategies do you envision for broadening the school-day curriculum so instructional time in the arts is not crowded out of the school day?

As a trained architect, I have a longstanding and deep appreciation of the value of the arts. I know that arts education is critical not just for ensuring all students grow up to be well-rounded members of their communities, but also for providing skills that allow them to be effective problem-solvers, creative thinkers, and more successful professionals. And of course, some of our students will make their careers in the arts as creators, performers or in the host of technical and managerial roles needed by NYC’s huge arts ecosystem.

Critically, in our post-Covid recovery, arts education will play a significant role in helping students reengage with their schools. Thoughtfully integrated arts education will help students process trauma, support differently abled learners, and provide one route to collaborative, project-based learning. The arts will not be optional in my administration.

We will go into further detail on our plans to support arts education in our schools below.

Shaun Donovan

4. The long-term effects of COVID-19 on students and schools will take years to understand. It is widely acknowledged that arts education provides authentic ways for students to build long-term social-emotional competencies (such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, empathy, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making). How will you provide school communities with the tools and resources needed to confront and address trauma while fostering a welcoming, supportive environment?

Helping both students and educators recover from the academic and social-emotional impact of COVID must be a principal consideration in our city’s recovery plans, and is a key priority of my Education Platform. Reopening schools for more students, in a way their families trust is safe, is just the beginning; a generation of students are facing unprecedented challenges in terms of widening opportunity gaps, as well as growing social-emotional needs after the trauma of the pandemic and social isolation. When it comes to supporting learning recovery, students need both content-specific academic supports and ongoing social-emotional and mental health supports. We must commit to a multi-year comprehensive approach that provides targeted support to help our students and educators recover, but goes beyond—reimagining an education system that creates equitable environments that propel all students, particularly those historically marginalized, on a path of opportunity and success.

We must invest in additional mental health services, response to trauma, and other supports, both within and beyond school premises, building on the city’s previous investment in counselors and support staff. This includes building a Mental Health Continuum, as advocates and the City Council have called for, that provides mental health care for students and families in and outside of schools so that they receive coordinated mental health services needed, especially if they are in crisis, rather than relying on 911. Additionally, all educators should receive mental health and self-care support for themselves, alongside mental health and social-emotional learning training to better address their students’ needs in the classroom.

Despite heroic efforts on the part of educators and school leaders, most students experienced sporadic instruction after the abrupt shift to remote learning in the spring of 2020. As our schools and communities recover and rebuild, students will need additional time to address this unparalleled social-emotional, mental health, and academic disruption in a thoughtful, research-based manner. Through initiatives like extended day and/or year, summer programming, year-round schooling, and intensive tutoring, we need to provide additional core academic, enrichment (e.g. visual and performing arts, sports, health and wellness, etc.) and social-emotional opportunities for our students as well as planning and collaboration time for our educators. The right approach will differ by school and community; it should be co-planned with local educators and families to meet the needs of local school communities.

An Education Recovery Corps could utilize the strength of our CUNY students and graduates, and other young people, to partner with educators to support the academic and social-emotional recovery of our elementary and secondary school students. Partially funded through federal AmeriCorps dollars and modeled after existing initiatives like the CUNY Tutor Corps, the College Bridge Program, and City Year, but with a more meaningful living allowance to ensure corps members are fairly paid for their service, an Education Recovery Corps could provide supplemental learning and social-emotional support for younger students, while offering immediate employment in their own communities for CUNY students and graduates, many of whom have faced economic hardship as a result of the pandemic.

Through all of these initiatives we must ensure that arts education and the specific social-emotional benefits that it provides are integrated into our plans, and that the arts are recognized as the valuable tool that they are.